An End to Cambodia's Nightmare?

There seems to be a new player in the game of international politics these days. When President Bush wanted international support for sending American troops to the Persian Gulf, who did he call? The United Nations Security Council. The council, as we know, responded with surprisingly eager support.

In the olden days (that is, five years ago), when the bloc system almost guaranteed that controversial efforts from either East or West would be blocked by the other, the Security Council was often merely another battlefield for the Cold War. But now the council -- and especially its five permanent members (the two superpowers, along with the Chinese, the British, and the French) -- has become a reliable ally for U.S. diplomatic efforts. Some have charged that it has the potential to become just another place where the Americans exercise their muscle as the preeminent global power.

A case in point might well be the latest developments in Cambodia. The United States has long played a destructive role in the civil war that has been waged there for 11 years, aiding and abetting the rebel coalition led by the murderous Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge followers. Now the Bush administration has thrown its weight behind a U.N. Security Council plan that could effectively dismantle the only force capable of withstanding Pol Pot's return to power: the government of Cambodia, backed by our old nemesis, Vietnam.

The history of America's role in Cambodia over the past two decades is a tragically ironic story. At the height of the Vietnam War, U.S. forces helped to overthrow Prince Norodom Sihanouk to install Lon Nol. While Richard Nixon was dropping a half-million tons of bombs in the "secret war" in Cambodia, Lon Nol was busy destroying much of the moderate leadership of the country. The vacuum created allowed the genocidal Khmer Rouge to come to power, a four-year reign of terror ended only by the Vietnamese invasion in late 1978.

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